News / USA

    US Tourists Treated to True Taste of Tuscany

    Antoinette Mazzaglia shows her fellow Americans how to eat well in her adopted Italian city

    Antoinette Mazzaglia, of Taste Florence, shows tourists how to read a wine label at the Golden View Open Bar overlooking Florence’s Ponte Vecchio.
    Antoinette Mazzaglia, of Taste Florence, shows tourists how to read a wine label at the Golden View Open Bar overlooking Florence’s Ponte Vecchio.

    Multimedia

    Audio
    Nancy Greenleese

    Antoinette Mazzaglia knows where to find all of the best food in her adopted city of Florence, Italy, and she's helping fellow Americans find it.

    After hearing repeated tourist complaints about the local cuisine, the food and wine expert launched Taste Florence four years ago, to give tourists a true taste of the Tuscan capital.

    The petite woman with flowing black hair and high-heeled sandals stands on a church’s steps, looking more Italian than Sophia Loren. She hands out an Italian breakfast staple - cornetti - pastries filled with custard - to a half-dozen Americans. As they nibble, Mazzaglia, Toni for short, introduces herself.

    “Basically, all my great-grandparents were born all over Italy, mostly in the South. And so I like to say that I’m 100 percent Italian. I was just assembled in America. Kind of like a Volkswagen, actually like a Fiat now.”

    Third-generation Florentine butcher Luca Menoni, with Antoinette Mazzaglia, explains to tourists how he selects the meats for which the city is famous.
    Third-generation Florentine butcher Luca Menoni, with Antoinette Mazzaglia, explains to tourists how he selects the meats for which the city is famous.

    She’s been parked in Florence for about a decade. The University of North Carolina graduate spent a semester abroad here, studying Italian culture and cuisine. She fell in love with a Tuscan man and decided to return. But she soon realized that her amore for Florence’s food was stronger than for the fellow.

    Good taste

    Mazzaglia launched Taste Florence with a simple goal.

    “For visitors, when they come to the city to not go away with a bad taste in their mouth.”

    She says tourists often fall into a bad-food trap after a long day of museum-hopping.

    “They’re starving and they get a really bad sandwich in one of those little tourist trap places that has everything," she says. "If a place has panini, gelato, waffles and pizza - there’s a place like that right near the Uffizi - it’s probably going to be really bad. Because if you have time to make all that, you really didn’t make it yourself.”

    Mazzaglia has to start from scratch in describing Tuscan cuisine, particularly to Americans who imagine they’ll be eating pizza and spaghetti. The bilingual Mazzaglia offers guided visits of markets and specialty shops.

    At Vestri gelateria, Antoinette Mazzaglia of Taste Florence pours aged balsamic vinegar on William Moore’s gelato for a uniquely Italian treat.
    At Vestri gelateria, Antoinette Mazzaglia of Taste Florence pours aged balsamic vinegar on William Moore’s gelato for a uniquely Italian treat.

    Her clients see and savor this so-called “poor man’s food” based on beans, vegetables and wild game. Today, a group of six Americans has already sampled Tuscan cheeses, meats, oils. Next up: gelato covered in aged balsamic vinegar.

    Pennie DiMartino digs in. “It almost tastes like liquor. Like if you put rum on ice cream. But better. It doesn’t have a liquor aftertaste."

    The Long Islander came to Italy to eat the Italian food that her half-Italian husband doesn’t know how to make. She and the others dine on spelt salad, stuffed zucchini and are encouraged to try salted cod on Friday.

    Learning curve

    Frequent traveler William Moore says Mazzaglia has helped them sink their teeth into Florence’s and Italy’s true art - cuisine.

    “You may not be able to appreciate every detail in every work of art at the Uffizi but you surely can appreciate a fantastic carbonara or what have you. We all come equipped with basic equipment - the taste buds for that. You don’t need a degree in art history to see the sort of subtle layers of this dish versus that."

    Antoinette Mazzaglia, who returned to her great-grandparents’ native land about 10 years ago, describes various types of salami to her tour group before they taste it.
    Antoinette Mazzaglia, who returned to her great-grandparents’ native land about 10 years ago, describes various types of salami to her tour group before they taste it.

    Mazzaglia's clients won’t get duped when selecting wines for dinner or gifts. They’ll also make sure their extra virgin olive oil isn’t more than a year old and won’t judge it by its color. Italians learn these lessons as children; Americans need a guide to this varied culinary culture.

    However, according to Mazzaglia, Americans are becoming more familiar with Italian cuisine thanks to cooking shows on television.

    “Now we're starting to watch the Food Network and other fantastic networks that are giving us a wealth of chefs and programs where they travel to Italy, to all parts of Italy, and helping people understand there is a difference," Mazzaglia says. "Each region has its own food, each town has its own food. Even across town in Florence, you have two different plates."    

    With each glass, it becomes clearer Mazzaglia has shown these Americans how to eat and drink like Italians. They linger over the Tuscan reds and nibble on tomato-topped bruschette. Strangers this morning exchange email addresses and promise to keep in touch.

    On this day, Taste Florence has taught them what Italians have known for centuries - that the time you spend eating is never wasted.

    You May Like

    US, Allies Discuss Next Steps in Islamic State Fight

    Meeting comes a day after US Navy SEAL was killed while fighting Islamic State forces in northern Iraq

    In China, Traditional Banks Fight Challenge From Internet Firms

    Internet companies lent more than $150 billion to customers in 2015, which is an extremely small amount compared to the much larger lending by commercial banks last year

    Trump Faces Tough Presidential Odds Against Clinton

    Numerous national election surveys show former secretary of state defeating presumptive Republican nominee with tough talk to halt illegal immigration and temporarily block Muslims from entering country

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limitedi
    X
    Katie Arnold
    May 04, 2016 12:31 PM
    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora